What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Will take back any clothes that may happen not to suit.”
When he arrived in Boston, tailor John Maud placed an advertisement in the Boston Chronicle to announce that he had “just opened SHOP” in King Street near the British Coffee House. He aimed to establish a clientele consisting of both men and women, noting that “He enages to make gentlemens clothes laced or plain in the newest fashion” and “ladies habits laced or plain.” The tailor implied that his mobility in the British Atlantic world helped him keep abreast of current styles; he formerly followed his trade in Dublin, but more recently had worked in Halifax.
Given that he was new to town, Maud had not yet established a reputation among the residents of Boston. This prompted him to publish a return policy as part of his introduction to his new neighbors and prospective clients. Maud pledged to “take back any clothes that happen not to suit,” intending to alleviate the trepidation any readers felt about working with an unfamiliar tailor. Maud did not elaborate on what constituted legitimate grounds for returning clothes; instead, he made a blanket statement that allowed for objections about fit and fashion as well as other concerns. Presumably Maud and his customers worked out more specific terms during their transactions in his shop.
This sort of return policy was not a standard element of advertisements placed by tailors and others in the clothing trades in the 1760s. Maud apparently believed that he needed an innovative strategy to distinguish himself from other tailors who worked in Boston, tailors who had already cultivated relationships with local clients and benefited from the residents of the city seeing their garments on display as their customers went about their daily lives. To overcome that disadvantage, Maud pursued another means of making his shop competitive with others already established in the city. Offering a return policy also allowed for a second chance to serve dissatisfied customers when they made returns, giving him an opportunity to request a second chance (perhaps at reduced prices) to retain business that they might otherwise take elsewhere. Maud did not merely announce that he ran a new shop in Boston; he presented prospective clients with good reasons to hire his services.